United States Navy

Submarine Tenders

USS Dixon AS 37

USS Dixon AS 37 in 1971
USS Dixon Patch
USS Dixon Patch
(tons Laden)
23,493Built / Launched1970
Length645' 8"Built ByGeneral Dynamics,
Quincy, Mass.
Beam85' 0"ClassL. Y. Spear
Draft24' 8"Commissioned1971
Speed (rated)18.0ktsDecommissioned12/15/1995
Compliment1,161DispositionSunk as target, 21 July 2003

Captain D. S. Boyd, USN 7 August 1971 - 17 August 1973
Captain B. M. Kauderer, USN 17 August 1973 - 23 May 1975
Captain J. P. Keane, USN 23 May 1975 - 10 November 1977
Captain D. G. Harscheid, USN 10 November 1977 - 2 August 1979
Captain R. L. Wolfe, USN 2 August 1979 - 3 April 1982
Captain N. A. Heuberger, USN 3 April 1982 - 26 January 1985
Captain T. H. Bond, USN 26 January 1985 - 28 February 1987
Captain R. N. Lee, USN 28 February 1987 - 29 April 1989
Captain C. J. Beers, Jr, USN 29 April 1989 - 15 June 1991
Captain R. A. McCurry, USN 15 June 1991 - 25 November 1992
Captain D. W. Crisp, USN 25 November 1992 - 10 August 1994
Captain D. W. Hearding, USN 10 August 1994 - 15 December 1995
DIXON's namesake, Confederate Army Lieutenant George E. Dixon, commanded the Confederate Submarine Torpedo Boat H. L. HUNLEY during the Civil War. He is credited with the first sinking of an enemy ship in combat by a submarine after the HUNLEY fired on and sank the Federal Sloop-of-War HOUSATONIC on 17 February 1864. Dixon and his crew never returned from their mission. USS DIXON (AS 37) honors the memory of Lt. George E. Dixon and his place in naval history.
Built by General Dynamics at the Quincy Shipbuilding Division in Quincy, Mass., DIXON began it's journey as the second ship of the USS L.Y. SPEAR (AS 36) class of submarine tenders. DIXON is 644 feet long, 85 feet wide, displaces over 22,000 tons, is 178 feet from the keel to the top of the mast and operates at a maximum speed of 20 knots. With over 995 compartments and 12 decks, this versatile and complex ship was designed to provide logistical and technical support for as many as twelve nuclear attack submarines with up to four submarines receiving complete services alongside at any one time. Its repair and provisionary capabilities allowed service and support to the fleet from a forward deployed site or as a repair facility. The Repair Component consisted of the Repair Department and the Weapons Repair Department With a foundry carpenter shop, print shop, photo lab, electrical and electronic repair shops, sheet metal and steel work, nuclear component repairs, weapons support, and machine shop onboard, DIXON was able to provide vital services in support to submarines. The ship's force, which included Engineering, Safety, Communications, Deck, Medical, Dental, Supply, Legal, and Administrative departments, allowed DIXON to be a mobile and self-contained "city" ready to serve the submarine fleet in any way necessary. DIXON was the only submarine tender with full capability for helicopter operations and was equipped with a diver recompression chamber.

The Dixon underway with escorts.
The Keel was laid 8 September 1967. Mrs. Dorothy Masterton, wife of Vice Admiral Paul Masterton, USN (Ret) christened the ship 20 June 1970. After the Commissioning Ceremony, held in Norfolk, VA, 7 August 1971, and under the command of Captain David S. Boyd, DIXON transited to its new homeport in San Diego, CA. The ship, with a crew of 972 officers and enlisted men, prepared to provide support as a part of the Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet.

The ship arrived in San Diego 27 September 1971 and began its assigned duties in November 1971. June through September 1972, the ship made its way to Bremerton, WA for a post-shakedown availability for extensive rehabilitation work. DIXON returned to San Diego in October and commenced tending duties. It reported firing 8 rounds of 5" 38 ammunition (from guns since removed) during the transit to homeport. In 1973, DIXON operated as a unit of and flagship for Commander Submarine Squadron FIVE and Commander Submarine Group FIVE, providing logistics and repair, communications, administration and command support to Commander Submarine Flotilla ONE. In 1974, DIXON commenced providing all supply and logistics support to units of Submarine Squadron THREE while USS SPERRY (AS 12) was in overhaul.

The Mark 48 torpedo shop in May of 1975
Note that some have their hats over their hearts - that is because this was the last warshot Mark 48 which Dixon produced for the foreseeable future. From that point on, we handled only exercise weapons. The Hill Land Facility on Point Loma handled the warshot weapons.
The people are from left to right -
Back row: TMCS Reynolds, TMC Parrott, TM3 Bowler, TM2 Tayman, TMSN Vollmer, TMI O'Kelley (kneeling), TM3 Ullenhake, TM I Smalley, TM I Scarbarry, TM2 Stapleton, TM3 Pylant. Front row (in front of weapon): TM3 Rasmus, TM3 Bishop, TM3 Stewart
Photo and info courtesy Martin Stewart
DIXON continued its service to the Fleet with many milestones and achievements to its credit. The ship was presented the Secretary of the Navy Award for "the greatest initiative taken by a ship to operate in an environmentally acceptable manner" during 1972. DIXON was the only ship in the Navy to receive this distinction. In 1973, the ship was awarded the "Golden Anchor" for excellence in retention of quality personnel. The command received a Meritorious Unit Commendation for service for the period of August 1971-August 1973. In August of 1974, it was certified as the first afloat Intermediate Maintenance Activity for the MK48 Torpedo system. In November of 1974, it had both 5" 38 gun mounts removed.

In January 1977, DIXON completed its first Operational Propulsion Plant Examination. It also performed a periscope installation in the Reuben H. Fleet Space Theater, Balboa Park, San Diego, CA. In the same year, it received final certification for the Oxygen Clean Room, making DIXON the first tender on the West Coast with the capability to provide calibration and repair services on oxygen gauges and systems. The ship also became the first West Coast tender to implement "Check-to-Bank" pay under the Shipboard Joint Military Pay System. Throughout the years it earned many accolades and nominations for the NEY Award proving it to be one of the best large ships in terms of food service and sanitation.

Changing technology paved the way for many upgrades and improvements on DIXON. In 1978, it became the first submarine tender to off load all ordnance from the ship for an overhaul without moving the ship to an ammunition depot. From May through July of 1978, DIXON was in drydock completing phase one of an overhaul period. It was the first major ship overhaul completed ahead of schedule in San Diego in over three years. During sea trials, DIXON maintained a 22-knot speed, distinguishing it as the Navy's fastest tender.

Ensign McIntyre
Ensign Roberta McIntyre, the first woman to qualify as a Surface Warfare Officer; checks valves aboard the submarine tender USS DIXON (AS 37).
Technology wasn't the only thing changing. On 22 November 1978, Ensigns Roberta Lynn McIntyre (assigned in training for Operations Officer and Assistant Navigator) and Macushla Maureen McCormick (assigned Weapons QA and W-5 Division Officer) reported aboard for sea duty. There would be more to come. In 1979, two more female officers and 35 enlisted women reported aboard.

Continued improvements and achievements kept DIXON apace with a changing world. In 1979, the Supply Department opened the self-serve laundromat for the crew's use. The ship received the SNAP I computer processing system used to streamline and fully automate supply functions. In 1980, Ens. Roberta L. McIntyre qualified and was designated a Surface Warfare Officer, the first WINS officer in U.S. Naval history to earn the pin. Higher education commenced onboard with Chapman College PACE courses offered in Personal Finance and History of Russia. A new soda fountain/retail area on the first deck held its grand opening and was thereafter deemed the "Snack Shack".

Ten years after commissioning, preparations for the first extended deployment to the Western Pacific began in 1981. While in Pearl Harbor, HI, the ship was equipped with a Shipboard Information Training and Entertainment system offering two television channels for the crew. After arriving in Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines for completion of voyage repairs, the ship left for Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territories via the Straits of Malacca. During the entire transit, the ship maintained an average speed of 18 knots. Four months later, while in Sydney, Australia for a port visit, the DIXON entertained distinguished visitors, gave tours and received significant press interest and coverage in regards to the female crewmembers. In June of 1981, DIXON returned to homeport completing its first extended deployment.

The Dixon in the lagoon at Diego Garcia "tending" to business...
with the SSN 693 USS Cincinnati along side
Photo courtesy Dave Gibson
SSN 693 identified by Ron Beck
In 1982, DIXON not only assumed responsibility for Commander Submarine Squadron THREE units' pay records, but also began onloading all weapons and ordnance materials from USS SPERRY (AS 12) in preparation for its decommissioning.

DIXON also became the Squadron Flag Ship for Commander Submarine Squadron THREE. Port visits to Seattle, WA and Acapulco, Mexico were made during underway exercises. Acting as a good will ambassador, DIXON presented the Mayor of Acapulco and his wife five pallets of Project Handclasp materials. By 1982, the ship had been commanded by six Commanding Officers.

The excellence continued as DIXON earned the 1983 NEY Memorial Award in recognition for having the finest food service organization in the large ship category. DIXON steamed a total of 4,996 nautical miles in 1983 making underways to San Francisco and Portland, OR. During the transit to Portland, the ship trained in engineering and radiological controls. Captain Heuberger's memorable words, "The fog is lifting we're going to make a run for if', became the motto. In 1984, a two-year onboard Associates Degree Completion Program was established with the support of six different universities across the country. In January 1984, DIXON completed another overhaul period. The ship was granted flight deck certification for helicopter operations for use with landings as well as with vertical replenishment.

In November of 1984, weapons system and major construction projects soon became the focus of change. A ship alteration added the capability for maintenance and assembly of TOMAHAWK cruise missiles. The crew's Mess Decks, Galley and Laundry equipment were completely overhauled and disbursing and supply spaces were relocated to the after third deck of the ship. Dental Department underwent rehab to include new decks, bulkheads, overheads, cabinetry and a new prosthetic laboratory. Repair Department completed renovations to 50 work centers and improved ventilation capabilities.
The ship reached new milestones as the years progressed. In 1985, Deck Department earned the Deck Seamanship Award from COMSUBPAC after implementing a new submarine mooring procedure which reduced line handlers from 18 to 7. The new technique proved so successful at mooring submarines alongside, it was adopted by USS MCKEE (AS 41). The following year, the ship steamed a total of 5,540 nautical miles while operating off the coasts of Mexico, California and Vancouver, British Columbia.

After 15 years of service, the ship was presented the Chief of Naval Operations Bronze Hammer Special Award for enhancements to support crew berthing and recreational facilities during a six-phase shipyard and follow-on habitability period involving the renovation of 14 berthing compartments containing 1,177 berths, lockers and sanitary facilities. The ship's retail operation, judged as one of the best in the "Ships Store Best Sales and Service Competition," finished second in the Pacific Fleet.

In March of 1986, a Repair fly-away team conducted the first major post-World War 11 upkeep of a submarine in Adak, Alaska. Supply coordinated timely transportation and tracking of critical parts to the remote area even though periodic eruptions of a local volcano twenty miles away complicated passage through already difficult cargo routes into Adak. In 1987, the crew along with embarked guests transited from Pearl Harbor to Lahaina, Maui and back. In May of 1988, the ship got underway for a two-month Northern Pacific deployment, stopping in Bremerton, WA; Sitka and Adak, AK; and Vancouver, British Columbia. DIXON was awarded its second Meritorious Unit Commendation for operations during the deployment In October 1988, the crew enjoyed Automatic Teller Machines for the first time as DIXON was the first Pacific Fleet ship to install ATM's.

DIXON spent May to September of 1989 in a Drydock Selected Restricted Availability for upgrades. In December, the ship tended a Trident and fast attack submarine alongside while in Pearl Harbor. It was the first time such a feat had ever been completed from a remote site. DIXON was then selected as the COMSUBPAC Battle Efficiency winner for 1989.

Engineering, Damage Control, Dental, and Repair were among the departments receiving Excellence awards that year. DIXON was also presented the COMSUBPAC Silver Anchor Award for enlisted retention excellence.

The ship went on to place as one of five Navy-wide finalists for the 1989 NEY Award. Preparations for the competition included a $400,000 renovation of the Mess Decks and adjoining spaces. The Sales Division was selected as the Pacific Fleet finalist for the Best Store Sales and Service Award. DIXON was nominated for the 1990 Environmental Protection Award in the category of large ships for active Hazardous Materials/Waste Control Programs, Prohibition of At-Sea Dumping of Plastics and Medical Waste Program and Asbestos Control Program. DIXON was selected as COMSUBPAC Battle Efficiency winner for 1990 and participated in the San Francisco "Fleet Week" activities during a port visit to the city.

In the "Can Do" spirit, DIXON set out for its second Western Pacific deployment in July of 1992. It earned a Southwest Asia Service Medal during the cruise. While deployed, it tended the first submarine in the Arabian Gulf and established two remote refit sites and tended twenty four surface ships alongside. On the return leg of the deployment, the ship and crew proved their capabilities with a significant Navy first after successfully completing an underway refueling, transferring 40,000 gallons of fuel to a surface combatant, USS FANNING (FF 1076). It then went on to conduct the first major vertical replenishment of a submarine tender by a replenishment ship. On 20 January 1993, DIXON returned home from its second WESTPAC deployment It was presented as the runner-up for the NEY Award in the Tender/Repair ship category, earned the 1992 COMSUBPAC Battle Efficiency Award along with various departmental efficiency awards. In 1992, DIXON became the only Pacific Fleet submarine tender to receive five consecutive Repair "R" Awards for excellence. In 1993, the ship was installed with a prototype Local Area Network (LAN) computer system which consolidated five databases into one with the use of fiber optic cable. The upgrade allowed computer operations on DIXON to become faster and more user-friendly.

DIXON remained a West Coast repair leader even during the last few years of service to the Fleet. In 1994, DIXON participated in many inspections, earned the COMSUBPAC Deck "D" Award and started a major berthing rehabilitation project to refurbish all crew's berthing areas. In March 1994, the ship made a transit to San Francisco, CA, sponsoring over 600 guests for local public tours of the ship while in port. The Helo Deck received upgrades with the installation of improved lighting and stations for helo operations. A Special Material Reuse Facility was established and saved the Navy over $50,000 in the first seven months of operation.

In May of 1994, DIXON became the prototype for the West Coast, after the installation of the first Source Data System (SDS). In July, Cdr. Richard Sandvig was relieved by DIXON's last Executive Officer, Cdr. Lawrence L. Musto. The ship, continuing in her "Can Do" spirit, became the West Coast prototype for the Instituted Error Correction on Line (ECCO) program. During a change of command ceremony on 10 August 1994, Capt. Dale W. Crisp was relieved by Capt David W. Hearding, DIXON's twelfth and last Commanding Officer.

In September, DIXON commenced GATEGUARD message delivery to all submarines operating in San Diego. It was the implementation of electronic message distribution which replaced the formerly paper traffic method of distribution. Fleet communications were also expanded by the installation of the Navy's first afloat Fleet Communications Package (FCP). The FCP provided complete access to the Internet for electronic mail and file transfer over the ship's Local Area Network.

The ship successfully passed its last OPPE, received an honorable mention for the NEY Food Service Excellence Award competition in the Pacific Fleet Tender/Repair ship category and was awarded the COMSUBPAC 1994 Communication's Green "C" Award for tender communications excellence.

In its last year of service, DIXON hosted the deactivation ceremony of both Submarine Squadron THREE and Submarine Group FIVE and became the flagship for Commander Submarine Squadron ELEVEN in March of 1995. On 24 April 1995, DIXON departed for its last trip to the island paradises of Oahu and Maui, HI. The transit period provided valuable training opportunities for the crew and saved the Navy over $800,000 due to the ship delivering a 65-foot torpedo retriever, a portable effluent tank, over 100 pallets and crates of weapons materials, two Mark 48 torpedoes and submarine sail platform to SubBase Pearl Harbor. The crew enjoyed the time spent in its last Pacific liberty ports. Deck Department provided over 54 hours of running time with liberty boats and transported over 2,000 people during the three days off the coast of Maui. The last crewmembers reporting for duty on board DIXON arrived in July.

The ship sailed for the last time to Norfolk, VA via the Panama Canal in October 1995. Upon arrival in Norfolk, the crew completed the inactivation of the ship's systems and officially decommissioned it on 15 December 1995.

What all ships like to do - makin' tracks and cutting a wake!
On 21 July 2003 a SINKEX operation was conducted by the US Navy in which USS Dixon AS 37; USS Samuel Gompers AD 37 and USS Seneca ATF-91 were used as targets for Harpoon missiles, guns of various caliber, and 2000 pound bombs dropped by bombers. Ships participating in the SINKEX included USS Cole, USS Thorn, USS Gonzo as well as a squadron of bombers. The ship's exact location hasn't been acknowledged by the Navy - but it is generally agreed that the location on this map is very close - off the Georgia coast, roughly 420 miles ESE of Savannah.

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